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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 43 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
In this week's HW Recap: Taking a closer look at Hamilton's continuing playoff run with their weekly StatPack plus which prospects have helped or hurt their NHL chances. We have had signing news in each of the last two weeks, find out who may sign with the Habs this week while the Final Thought discusses why fans need to keep their expectations tempered for the most recent blueliner to ink a contract.
Rather than do some grades for the Bulldogs, I thought I'd focus on some of the more notable prospects and whether they've helped, hurt, or haven't changed their stock in the organization.
Gabriel Dumont: The book on him is that
he's a big game player who takes it to another level in the playoffs. This
postseason has been no exception as he's scoring every third game. If he
can keep this up into next season, it may not be long before he gets some NHL
time as he simply does whatever it takes to win. Every team can use more
of those types of players.
Brendon Nash: Heading into the year, Nash was thought to be simply a depth signing for the Bulldogs and nothing more. However, he got off to a strong start and earned himself a callup to Montreal. Unfortunately, that turned his season in the wrong direction as he struggled upon being returned to the point where he was a healthy scratch earlier in the week. Regardless, he is no longer an afterthought in terms of planning for the future.
Aaron Palushaj: In order for him to take the next step, he needed to have a breakout offensive season. A 25 point jump while nearly tripling his goal total qualifies as a breakout season. Having what amounted to basically two NHL linemates down the stretch (Dawes and Boyd) worked in his favour as it showed that he can complement skill players well while facing top checking units every night. He isn't ready yet (the key next year will be to put the same numbers with quite possibly lesser players) but he made some major strides toward becoming an NHL'er.
Alexander Avtsin: It's not often for a
rookie to come in and dominate the league, even rarer for an underage one to do
so. I think most of us were guilty of expecting too much from him this
season but when you look at his season as a whole it wasn't too bad, especially
considering he just turned 20 two months ago. Next year, he should be a
full timer which is the goal of most rookies entering the league at that age.
It's a longer development curve for the Russian but he's on track.
Andrew Conboy: Heading into the season, the hope was that Conboy would be able to take the next step offensively. For the most part, he did, posting better offensive numbers in fewer games. The problem though has been his discipline, particularly in the playoffs. For him to make it to the NHL, he'll have to bring the physical play, but he needs to get better at balancing aggression with fewer sin bin trips.
Andreas Engqvist: Even though he was technically a rookie, he was expected to be a key cog for the Bulldogs after spending the previous four seasons in Sweden's top league. He did just that, being the top checker and faceoff specialist while scoring some timely goals as well. At this point in time, he has to be part of the discussion with regards to Montreal's 4th line next season which is where the organization hoped he'd be heading into this year.
Mathieu Carle: I must admit, I feel a
little odd placing him here as his offensive numbers were better while his
+/- this season was better than the rest of his AHL career combined. That
said though, nothing he did is going to force management to hold a spot for him
next season which was his lone goal after clearing waivers in training camp.
His NHL future with the Habs, what little chance remained, is likely gone now.
Robert Mayer: The Bulldogs' coaching staff thinks so highly of Mayer, last year's Kelly Cup (ECHL playoffs) co-MVP, that they haven't given him a start since late February, a span of 40 games. What's sad to say is that he's the best goalie prospect the Habs have in the organization (largely because come next week, he'll be the only goalie prospects in the organization). His AHL future, let alone his NHL one, is in jeopardy.
The Dog Pound
The week didn't start off the greatest as the Bulldogs trailed the series 3-0 but have fought back to force a Game 7 on Tuesday night. Hamilton becomes only the 3rd team in the 75 year history of the AHL to achieve such an accomplishment (just forcing a Game 7) joining the Rochester Americans (1960) and the Adirondack Red Wings (1989).
It took a while, but Hamilton's offensive attack came to life after they lost Game 3 and has carried them into Game 7.
|32||Frederic St. Denis||4||0||4||+6||4||6|
Goals: Nigel Dawes (14)
(tied for league lead)
Assists: Aaron Palushaj (12)
Points: Nigel Dawes (20)
+/-: Frederic St. Denis (+12) (league leader)
PIMS: Andrew Conboy (41)
Shots: Nigel Dawes (71)
May 24: Game 7 in Houston
To sign or not to sign
May already has been somewhat of a busy month
with the signings of Raphael Diaz and Alexei Yemelin but we may see a third
international player put pen to paper in the coming days. June 1st is a
deadline for teams to sign players (aside from those playing US college or in
Russia) picked from the past two drafts. As it stands, there are a pair of
prospects from the 2009 draft who have yet to sign with the team and fall under
the June 1st deadline, Joonas Nattinen and Petteri Simila. The latter's
case is easy to predict, he will not sign with Montreal as he has already signed
with a team in Finland's 2nd division for next season. Nattinen's case is
a little more complicated to guess on though.
Heading into this year, he was a prospect on the rise, having put up more than a point per game in Finland's junior league and nearly that in the 2nd division of their pro league. He also played 23 games in their top level while being an important part of their national junior squad. 2010-11 wasn't quite as rosy though. A ruptured Achilles tendon cost him roughly three months of his season and when he came back, he bounced around with little chance to settle in anywhere. Including international teams, he played for six different teams, no more than eleven games in any stop. Suffice it to say, his production dropped as a result.
So is he a prospect on the rise or did his stock drop? That's the decision that the Habs are facing within the next week. Personally, I would give him a contract as his size and faceoff prowess are something the organization is lacking. Does Pierre Gauthier feel the same way? We'll find out in the next week, one way or the other.
I know that in the offseason, the two words that Hab fans (and fans of other teams) hold onto are hype and hope. Right now, the hype machine seems to be in full effect with the signing of Alexei Yemelin and I fear that some people are expecting too much from him. Yes, he's a physical defenceman which is something the Canadiens sorely need. Does that alone mean he's going to come in and have a huge impact right away? Hardly, yet the expectation seems to be that way. He's not a first pairing defenceman (he wasn't in the KHL even), probably not a second either, at least to start. There is going to be a bit of a rough transition period as he adjusts to play in North America, a lengthier schedule, as well as trying to learn English, something that fellow Russian prospect Alexander Avtsin also struggled with in his first year across the pond. I'm not saying lose the hope, but keep the hype in check. Otherwise, you may be disappointed come October.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]